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‘Distract them from the fear’: High school student distributes COVID vaccine distraction kits for ages 5-11

Allana Haynes, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Mom's Advice

BALTIMORE -- Howard High School junior Poppy Swallow is working to support and comfort children in her community by creating distraction kits for those receiving their COVID-19 vaccines.

As part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project, the highest award in the program, Swallow, 17, of Ellicott City, Maryland, wanted to find a way to help young Howard residents during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“My project is basically to create the distraction kits as a form of community service,” Swallow said. “I thought it was very important during the time of COVID to have a little bit of positivity.”

The kits include pinwheels, Slinkys, stickers and other fidget toys to provide a diversion while children ages 5 to 11 receive their shot.

Additionally, they include a handmade brochure Swallow created that explains the purpose of the vaccine, which was approved for the 5-11 age group by U.S. health officials on Nov. 2. Howard County started administering shots to those children Nov. 5, and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said on Nov. 17 that more than 6,500 5- to 11-year-olds had received at least one dose so far.

Initially creating the kits to be distributed at pediatric centers before the pandemic, Swallow pivoted her project to distribute them at local COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

So far, she has dropped off kits at various locations around the county and region, including the Howard County Health Department, The Mall in Columbia, Anne Arundel Community College, B&A Brothers Driving Academy in Glen Burnie, Asbury United Methodist Church in Frederick and the Frederick County Health Department.


On Nov. 4, she dropped off a batch of kits at Duncan Hall at Howard Community College in Columbia where there is a regular vaccination clinic specifically for children ages 5 to 11.

Momina Malik, of Ellicott City, who has known Swallow for 10 years and served as her troop leader, described her as “dedicated” and “enthusiastic.”

Malik said she is proud to know that Swallow is using the kits to help children in the community.

“I was really excited to find out that she decided to go with this project,” Malik said. “It was just the perfect timing as well, in terms of what we were going through. Her projects and her ideas have always engaged the community, so her vaccine distractions kits were the perfect idea to keep the kids distracted when they’re getting their vaccines.”

Swallow said she hopes the kits will be helpful to children as they receive their vaccines.

“I’m really hoping that the brochure will be useful with kids that are kind of wary about getting the vaccine because they’ll learn that the vaccine is going to help them in the long run,” Swallow said. “I also hope that the toys and the little trinkets inside of the kits will help distract them from the fear of getting the shot.”




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